Every year on the 7th of April, World Health Day is celebrated across the globe. It is under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other related organizations. From its inception at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and since taking effect in 1950, the celebration has aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization.
Why celebrate World Health Day?
Over the past 71 years, World Health Day has brought to light important health. These include issues such as mental health, maternal and child care, and climate change. The celebration is marked by activities that extend beyond the day itself. It serves as an opportunity to focus worldwide attention on these crucial global health aspects.
This day’s previous themes have included nurses and midwives, Universal Health Coverage (UHC), depression, diabetes, and food safety.
Who is the WHA?
The day started in 1948 when the WHO held the First World Health Assembly. The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the forum through which its 194 member states govern the World Health Organization (WHO). It is the world’s highest health policy-setting body and comprises health ministers from member states.
The WHA members generally meet every year in May in Geneva at the Palace of Nations the location of WHO Headquarters. The main tasks of the WHA are to decide major policy questions. They also approve the WHO work program and budget and elect its Director-General (every fifth year). They elect ten members to renew part of its executive board every year. Its main functions are determining the organization’s policies, supervising financial policies, and reviewing and approving the proposed program budget.
A global benchmark
The Assembly decided to celebrate the 7th of April of each year, with effect from 1950, as World Health Day. The day is held to mark the WHO’s founding. It is also seen as an opportunity to draw attention to a subject or issue of significant importance to global health. There are international, regional, and local events held on the day. These days are always related to a particular theme. This day is acknowledged by many government and non-governmental organisations with an interest in public health issues. They also organise and highlight their support in media reports such as the Global Health Council.
Healthcare for all
This year, World Health Day is again focused on health for all. They wish to build a fairer, healthier world. COVID-19 has thrown into sharp relief that some people are more easily able to lead healthier lives and access health services than others. This is entirely due to the conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age.
Over the globe, some people struggle to make ends meet with little daily income. Housing conditions and education opportunities are more impoverished, with fewer employment prospects. They experience greater gender inequality and have little or no access to basic amenities. These include safe environments, clean water, air, food security, and health services.
This harms our societies and economies—it leads to unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness, and premature death. It is unfair and preventable. The WHO is calling on leaders to ensure that everyone has living and working conditions in line with good health. They are also urging leaders to monitor health inequities and ensure access to quality health services to all.
Other days marked by the WHO
World Health Day is one of 11 official global health campaigns observed by the WHO, along with: